Weekly Poem – Pivot

pivot hinge doorway samhain

There is a hard rain pelting on our roof this morning. Outside it felt way too dark to actually be close to 9am. But then again, we are that point of the year when the clocks go back. In Ireland this Sunday the clocks ‘fall back’ and we will be plunged into the darkness of Samhain time. This is one of the main pivot points in the Irish year. Traditionally, Samhain, or Halloween as it is known elsewhere, is the Celtic New Year. We are entering the season of endings and beginnings. Winter is a time where the earth is sleeping and, in our high northern latitudes, the light is too feeble for any growth. But the legends say that this is a time when Mother Earth is gestating. We must be patient, wait, and let the darkness do its own essential work.

Over in my Word Alchemy group we have been working on the theme of Light considering that what we see more of reflected in the outer world of media is deep shadow. This led on to the topic of joy. The prompt for one of our in-Zoom writing sessions was “What Brings You Your Greatest Moments of Joy?” Our further discussion touched on joy as a consciousness…and a conscious decision, one that does not refute the sadness or pain, but can be one where you can lace your fingers around a cup of hot chocolate and sip of something other for a moment.

Here is an excerpt from my own musings.

Sunset on the beach, the light slipping below the horizon, sending a burst of magenta, marigold and blue ink across an oceanic slate… the splash and plash of low tide rolling across sand and pebbles, sweeping up shells, sandblasted glass, cork, seaweed…watching the tideline rise and recede and my ankles sinking deeper and deeper into the sand…seeing fossils etched in ancient rock, the stars and spirals from which we all come from there to remind us of the spiral waltz of stardust that comes down to find a body who can stand at the tideline, ankles lapped by salty seawater that sink lower and lower into the silty sand, making a pearl inside of an oyster shell of a human body…

Moments of Joy, Bee Smith, 2021

Nature, the people and pets in our lives, our five senses, memories from the past, the now of the present, the hopes and plans for the future all weave a tapestry of joyfulness.

So many times over these anxious weeks, I stop myself and breath and pay especial attention to giving gratitude for the everyday…the roof over my head sheltering us from the pounding rain, the neighbours up and down the lane, the technology that helps us reach out and connect with those physically far from us, the cup of hot chocolate that does not deny the trouble and strife, but lifts us in a moment. And I give thanks for the cocao farmer and I hope that their family is well and free from suffering, too, and getting a fair exchange for their skill and labour. Little may they know or imagine what joy they are bringing in higher latitudes as rain pelts down and the year winds down to one of its pivot points.

Pivot

It's just the hinge needs grease
to ease its creak.

Just get at that rusting point.
Anoint the joints.

Just move back and forth,
back and forth. Do it smooth.

It's just metal won't give or grow.
A hinge opens. And it will close.

It's 180 degrees, you know? You're thinking 360.
That kind of swing sheers off everything

To a point that the point can
lose all its meaning.

You've only so much room
for manoevering.

A door remains two-faced. Replace grace for grease.
Then. Pivot.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

I invite you to recount your own moments of joy this week like you might say your prayers on rosary beads. Write it, paint it, crochet it – choose whatever creative activity gives you pleasure and joy. As another student commented in our Zoom Room last Saturday…creativity is an act of self-actualisation. Yet while we are actively shaping ourselves, we are also shaping and becoming the world we live in. We can take a conscious act to shape it and make it one of joy.

As we approach Samhain’s hinge of the year’s seasons, may your own pivot points be joyful.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – Sunday Morning Meditation

This is the mystery of writing. While you may practice it sitting on your arse staring at the blank page or screen, it happens in other ways, too. The late Dermot Healy once said in a master class I attended that all reading is writing. Even when you are slogging in a very muddy garden performing the autumn clear up tasks, writing is happening on some back burner in the brain. We sleep and dream and wake wanting to write it down and unriddle those images that stir us and make us confront the secret anxieties of our waking life. The longer I am at this writing lark I realise that wielding the written word is a coping mechanism for life. Or perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the creative process is what configures hope, peace, faith and love. It’s just that writing is my preferred creative vehicle driven in this life time. Next one, can I please be a visual artist?

We are living in anxious times. It’s difficult to ignore even if you strictly ration the gloomy news. If you duck the gunk going on the macro, the micro news carried by friends, acquaintances and colleagues cannot be given the blind eye. In my Zoom creative writing class this past weekend I used a quotation from a Leonard Cohen song as the spark for our in-class writing.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Goosebumps! This guy is just so good! Bravo maestro!

So the spark for part of the session was about cracks and where the light can get in or out. That is going to be an ongoing exercise over the next few weeks. Even though 92% of the Irish population over the age of 12 is vaccinated, the HSE is still prepping for a “difficult winter.” Medical staff are exhausted, between Covid and the cyber hack of the HSE computer system. Most everyone is flagging emotionally, mentally or physically. Who does not know someone who is down with the ‘cold that is not Covid?’ Resiliance is feeling a bit threadbare. A friend’s 95 year old mother said she felt this past 18 months had been more difficult in many ways than World War II. People may have been dying left and right then, but you could have a cup of tea with a neighbour if you felt down. Or go dancing, while not dodging bombs.

Sunday morning, even though for the first time in a week it was not raining, I woke early and grabbed my notebook. I had a very leisurely few hours of writing ‘downtime.’ The Weekly Poem is the result. It is an abecedarian. It is similar to the acrostic, with lines beginning with a word in alphabetical order over the course of the poem. It was a new form for me to experiment with.

BTW, I recommend finding one day a week for dedicating a morning to just mooch, or lie abed late, or stare out the window for a full hour. It can help steady the centre of world that is fizzing, fizzling, and sending up frantic distress signals.

Sunday Morning Meditation

A milky mist obscures next door’s field, and out
beyond I hear geese honking, a wailing a long way from home. Can it be
Canada is just their summer 'vacance'? Or is Lough Moneen 
   their winter palace?  What is home? I guess it

depends upon how you look at it. I watch them fly
east towards the mountain most days going
forwards and back from the lough, a noisy
gaggle in tight formation, expostulating.

How can we transliterate their soundings?

I look out as the morning gradually takes shape, mist receding over 
    the murky horizon. 
Jays have not visited the garden of late. Are they seasonal, too? 
    How is it that I do not
know my year round neighbours and which are the blow ins 
    from the Arctic?

Listen. Even in October there is some birdsong playlist, several species
making conversation. Or concert? Con-something or other.  Together,
notes make chilled jazz for a Sunday brunch ambience.

Onyx-eyed magpie stares straight at me as I write behind the window’s glass, bemused 
    or beseeching
perhaps. What can a bird want of me? One  likes to 
quantify symbolisms, let the bird’s shape signify, elevate it to messenger from
realms beyond the mist, but by nine o’clock

sunshine breaches this early autumn cloud. The world comes into sharp definition, the day’s light no longer
totally eclipsed. But do you feel the chill
underlying the light? Take the pulse of the unseen, the unheard, untold
verities, a
world of meaning craving anyone’s ear. Or eye. Or heart, offering itself up to be as revealing as the

X-ray that lights up the shadows, showing everything in photographic negative 
     when really what is needed is a very positive
'Yes!' To life. And yes to mourning. And yes to the lost,  and the already gone missing. 
     They are missed. Why did we never notice that once there
     was an ark, but now a

Zoo is an asylum for very nearly, almost, listed, life extinct.

Featured image Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

National Poetry Day in Britain

Today is the UK’s National Poetry Day. Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK and my husband was born in Northern Ireland I like that I get to celebrate a National Poetry Day twice a year. Three times if you include my birthplace, the States. But today, I want to wish all my British poetry friends a wonderful poetry filled and fuelled day.

Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark is partly in the Republic of Ireland and also in Northern Ireland. There is a UNESCO World Poetry Day every 21st March, too. So we get three opportunities at celebrating our earth’s heritage and the natural environment each year. I felt that today is an appropriate day to give you an update on the Geopark Poetry Map.

As all things in the time of Covid, in a time of remote working and summer holidays, projects can snail pace at times. We are working steadily towards the launch the Geopark Poetry Map. The long short list has been read and re-read, silently and aloud and the final eight poems have been selected from our Open Call. Those who will be included have been informed. In the final formation I am satisfied that we have a balanced representation in terms of geography and gender. We also have poems, cinquain and haiku, from school children from Cavan and Fermanagh so we have also involved young people in the project even under very restrictive circumstances. We were also lucky enough to have Dara McAnulty, who spent his childhood within the Geopark, to agree to writing a new poem for the Geopark Poetry Map even as he was working on his A levels!

Sidebar: I am so grateful that two schools stepped into the project given that they have had a horrid year and incredible academic challenges during Covid. The Fermanagh school has a kind of bell tent pitched so that there is a foot off the ground to allow air flow. This gave us some shelter from the rain the day of our workshops, though the midges were feeling pretty frisky! The Cavan class was very small and they cheerfully carried their desks and chairs outside and remained masked because they shared desk space. Which I found very moving – considerate of others’ health, stoical in the face of current realities and still engaged with the creative process! The principals of Florencecourt Primary and Curravagh National School are heroes in my estimation. Despite all the bureaucracy, both public health and educational, they wanted their kids to be able to do something creative. And mostly to engage with someone who was not the same face seen every day for that past eighteen months. Truly, they are educators with a wholistic sense of welfare for their pupils.

Meanwhile, during this week of UK Poetry Day, Ramor-Townhall Cavan are busy casting the actors and recording the voice overs of the texts written by the five commissioned authors, the four schoolchildren and eight adults selected to have their poems mapping the geoheritage of various sites around Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. We are plugging along and are getting closer to the finished product.

We hope to have a launch date for the Geopark Poetry Map firmed up soon…but as Mercury is retrograde until 19th October and Mercury Retrograde tends to slow down and snarl alll things internet, transport and communication, I am waiting with bated breath…

In the meantime, I include the geoheritage poem I wrote to Poetry Ireland Day last April.

The Hindmarsh Theory of Instability
In Ribbed Moraines

The world is made of caprice and chaos.
Or so it may seem.
Even as the land quakes and is sliding
avalanches, sacred geometry
spirals around ice
its melt, clay and rock.
Though you might not see.
Though the evidence is there at your feet.

Boulder and clay fractured by ice slide.
Dragged like Jayne Torville
in the grand finale to Bolero,
Dean pulling them prone,
their skates scarring tracks across the surface.
Parallel ripples 
evidence of creation’s  mammoth feat.

Minibus bouncing down a Cavan lane,
a verdant hummock,
suggestion of the ribs in the moraine.
More like lazy beds
built for giants’ appetites in times
before potatoes
would be a feed in a fulacht fia.

A lough pocked land where little rivers run
between, twisting,
gnarled like the antlers of the Giant Elk
dropped off at the end
of its last rutting season. Extinction.
Fossil memory.
The sacred geometry in chaos.

The buzzard flying high above can see
the lines that ripple
running down ancient Grandmother Earth’s cheeks.
The buzzard can see
more than we who have all the evidence
there beneath our feet.
Caprice. Chaos. Sacred geometry.

Map of ribbed moraine area that straddles North and southern parts of Ireland

Weekly Poem – A Clearing

I hope you had a good equinox last week. Activity is very much horticultural in our townland. A neighbour has found us a bargain potting shed and my husband has been busy clearing and leveling the space where they will erect it. Not quite a Pennsylvania Amish barn raising, but an Irish example of meitheal – that Irish word describing neighbours pitching in to help with harvest or other tasks. Meitheal is alive and well in our townland where we share seed and recycle handy items. The shed will rest on pallets that another neighbour had just put into a skip after clearing out one of their own sheds. What may no longer be useful to one may just be the solution for someone else’s project. And none of us want to add to landfill unneccessarily.

The week was spent tatie hoking – potato digging in Ulster parlance – and being the Lady of the Shallot’s bed. Also wrapping apples in newspaper from a friend’s tree. Everyone is spreading things around; my apple tree friend had been given crates full of windfall of second hand fiction. That has been parcelled out around the county.

The forecast of showers has proved wrong. I came in from clearing up hedge clippings and weed piles for lunch and after eating my sandwich sat down with my pen and found a sonnet forming.

A Clearing

Season's slide of diminishing daylight-
sudden slant of gold that parts pewter cloud
to stop your breath and break your heart before
the darkening scrolls across from the west.
These days  are spent digging and  lifting spuds
between showers, sweat streaming, a chill wind
plastering damp hair to skull, shivering,
judging Setanta gave a decent yield.

Now a clearing of each bed, laying bare
weed root and lingering fruit, reckoning
what counts as success in a year, whether
by wit, crazy chance or lazy practice.
Rake it level. Crumble it fine. Sow now
something hardy to bear the coming frost.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2021. All rights reserved.
Some of the spuds

I hope your own writing practice is going well. Last week marked the reconvening of many of my Zoom creative writing colleagues for our Saturday virtual gathering. That was cause for great joy. We look forward to dedicating ourselves to projects over the coming weeks as the days shorten and darken.

Equinox, Anniversaries, Homeplace

Last midnight the Harvest moon shone bright. This morning that particularly golden autumnal light is shining as I tap away at my laptop. Twenty years ago at Equinox (22nd September to be exact) I arrived in Dowra, the first village on the River Shannon. It has been my home since then and in a longish, peripetetic lifetime, it is also the place I have lived longest.

My given name is Barbara, which translates as foreigner, the stranger, the other. I am the third one in my family, named after my paternal grandmother and she shared her name with her mother. Both emigrated from Germany. I migrated as well. What is in a name? Quite a lot I think. Don’t name a dog Rascal or a cat Tiger. If you are driven demented by them it may well be your own fault. We inhabit the skin of our names.

In truth, when I lived in the motherland I felt an outsider and was conscious of it even as a pre-schooler. It did not improve with age. That I wound up being an emigrant twice over was perhaps an act of erasing one layer of cognitive dissonance. Of course, I am a foreigner, because I actually am one!

Having lapped up on Ireland’s shores two decades ago with my beloved partner, we found a cottage outside the village and have been, in fits and starts, renovating and remaking the house and garden. Later today we are clearing a space for the new potting shed. I need to be about my business today.

The rural Irish have a wonderful word – homeplace. It refers to the plot of earth that the family has inhabited for generations in some townland with a name that perfectly describes the lay of the land. Our own townland translates as the ‘the briary place’, or so I am told. Certainly, we have plenty of blackberry roots and shoots that we have cut back or dug out over the past twenty years. But briars also confer a tenacity.

The weekly poems I am posting this week are very, very old. The first must be nearly twenty years old and the other more than ten years. But it does chart an internal shift as those metaphorical briars took hold of my soul.

Homeplace

I love the way Eugene Clancy says the words homeplace
This battle-scarred boxer lets the syllables roll.
They reverberate in his throat – homeplace. 
I envy the way he can say it so tenderly.
Just like John Joe up the mountain at Moneen 
where all that is left of his family homeplace is a stone floor,
his father’s name carved on the hearth,
a chimney and what was once his parent’s bedroom.
He carved his name too when he left for forty years
working away but always feeling the tug and dream like draw.
These words are an embrace, a welcome and a safety.
I know that there is no place that I can call homeplace
in the same way as Eugene or John Joe 
with that sound so grounded and assured, 
rooted on a square space where blood and earth mingle. 
It is my earth, too, but not a homeplace.


Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

The heat of sun warming stone
The milky glare of full moon
The vibrant glints of planets and stars
As the plough furrows the night sky.

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

One New Year’s morning I looked up
Welcomed by harsh honking
Four whooper swans flying in formation
Glide to land on Lough Moneen

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

John O’Rourke’s cows now graze in 
Paddy’s flat fold of field,
His blue daubed ewes
Waddle from winter pasture to lambing barn

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

The willow quenches its thirst on our acre
Drinking deeply from rain sodden peat
An oak nurtured from acorn now stands tall
While the ash, as usual, is the last each spring to leaf

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

The cat scratches, chin tickled by dandelion clock
The dogs doze in a patch of sun
Swifts swoop in barn eaves; the cuckoo heralds spring
Wild bees feast on thorn blossom


Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

Gaudy gorse blazes on the hillsides
Meadowsweet shrouds fields in bridal lace
Lady’s Mantle does her juju on the verge
Blood taken from bramble thorn mingles in jam and wine

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred

They call this ‘the briary place’ and truth be told
The roots cannot be gone by sickle or scythe or
Smothered or scorched into submission,
Anchoring me to this place where each day I marvel

Standing on my door sill surrounded by the sacred


Back in the (Writing Practice) Saddle Again

The new fountain pen arrived on Saturday. A pristine notebook was beckoning. There was no excuse but for a daily writing practice to resume. On 15th September 2018 I began to post a poem each day. After three months I wondered if I could keep it up for a whole 365 days. I did it! Which is to say that the month of July was actually brutal and at times felt like forty days in a desert. So close to the end, but that last lap was really tough. I signed onto Angela T. Carr’s 30 Days of Summer poetry prompt e-course which got me through the writing dog days of August. (She is doing a similar course for Samhain this year. Check it out here: https://www.adreamingskin.com/spellbound-30-days-samhain-writing-challenge if your writing practice needs a nudge.)

I actually have been toiling for the past couple of weeks on a piece of creative non-fiction to submit for competition. Inthe early Noughties I wrote a regular column and contributed features fairly frequently to Sagewoman magazine. So I was used to churning out 2,500 words of prose on at least a quarterly basis and could knock things off in a pretty business-like manner. But I shifted more towards poetry in the past ten years and I have to say, composing what turns out to be something like 2,200 words has felt like a bloodletting.

They do say writers open a vein and bleed ink. Rather melodramatic and also a bit like P T Barnum doing your promotion. But still…writing is not easy. Trying my hand at a formal piece of creative non-fiction after such a long interval has been a real challenge. Writing can be hard work.

What writers don’t often mention is the amount of time you are thinking about the piece when you are not actually sitting in front of your laptop or doodling in your notebook. You read things…you see things… you stare out the window at the bird feeder and think idly of something, nothing, then another thing and then THE thing. And you walk the dog and think some more about THE thing and wonder to the aloud to the deaf dog if it fits into the heart of the piece. And then determine, as Maggie Hannon said to me during the poetry mentoring of 2019, if it a Siammese twin that needs surgical separation and to be put into its own cot!

I can offer some first drafts of poems from this morning’s writing practice this week.

We are the Mycelium Field

An underground life 
can be just as -
or more -
widereaching than
the width and breadth
of forest floor.

Airborne
fungi send their spores
below goes
above
and over
and down
and round again

Just watch a puff ball go
POOF!

An underground life
dreams
what we will see
not just the trees
not just the forest

Underground breeds
whole federations of trees and
above ground their leaves
rustle in the late summer afternoon breeze.

They do their alchemy
so we all can breathe

Some fungi I photographed on our Sunday walk in the woods. The air was heavily scented with ‘shroom!

The Townhall Cavan had a exhibition last month created by artist Jane McCormick divertingly called The Museum of Broken Things. Read more about it here: https://www.anglocelt.ie/2021/07/09/the-museum-of-broken-things/. I was so beguiled by the title I wrote a little fragment of a poem on objets cassé.

A Bunch of  Broken Things

The bust watch face
for which time never stopped

The chipped mug
that cuts your lip with every sip

The ragged wedding veil
that moths made into a sieve for your vows

The tarnished cigarette lighter
its flint rusted stuck

You
Me
the severed limb of a tree

Have a good week. I hope you have a creative practice each day. The world needs us to be creative. Find a sliver of each day to dedicate to your creativity. Even if it is during your lunch hour. I wrote a lot of haiku and micropoems over the years during lunch hours.

Writing Practice

I last posted a blog 17th of August. While I did post some old posts via social media, I have needed down time from writing. After the great black mould battle, redecoration, entertaining house guests and reconvening a social life within current Covid guidelines, three weeks have slipped by. Since Monday I have considered writing. I have drafted some lame poems. Finally, I admitted how out of practice I am with writing. Yes, I had been on a kind of vacation. But do you ever really take a vacation from writing practice? I haven’t for….a really long time. Probably not since August 2018 actually.

Just as out of practice I was with socialising. I am only talking five people max for tea (or lunch or supper) on the terrace, but gosh it is Exhausting with a capital E. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see people and especially to exchange ideas. We have had two visits with some Cavan Artists in Residence for the River Residency. Vicki and Paul from Boredom Research really charged me up with an exchange of artistic ideas and concepts; they are a tonic!

You can get plenty of inspiration online. Zoom has been an outlet for creative writing class exchanges. But to have a small group outdoors in sunshine where we can talk, sing, read out poems and excerpts from books grabbed from shelves, tell stories – in person – well, mind blowing!

I have just spent a few hours creakily resuming some form of writing practice. Normally, I write a first draft by hand with my trusty fountain pen. But tragedy struck and the nib that sketched out all those Poem a Day first drafts gave out two days ago. Which left me feeling very sad. Writers are strange beings. We get attached to certain rituals and the demise of that fountain pen left me feeling bereft. It, together with the Quink black ink cartridge refills have given service for at least the past four years.

The new moon was on the 7th and it felt like I needed to start with a fresh pen, a fresh notebook and not a thought or note to sing in my head.

Maybe I was ‘written out.’

Maybe there was nothing left to say…

Which really scared me…

I went on Amazon and ordered the pen on the 8th.

This morning looked at the rough out of an idea for a nature essay and opened the laptop. I aimed to put the meraki into that piece. Meraki is more often used when talking about pouring your soul into your cooking. Given all the entertaining that has happened this past fortnight my kitchen has been the heart centre of much outpouring of love.

Meraki also speaks of pouring something of yourself into your creative efforts and that led me to some autobiographical musing. The writing I have done this morning touches on the major ‘inner happening’ of my adult life. It was twenty-five years ago now, more even. Twenty-five years marks the line before and after neatly. From a distance now I can write without the attachment to the subject I had even twenty years ago.

It’s good to return to a theme or subject when you have made peace with it, with yourself and it.

And I am not sure what will become of what I wrote this morning. Something. Nothing. But I resumed some form of writing practice after nearly a month of pouring my meraki into redecorating my living room and preparing for visitors, cooking and baking and sharing all manner of things – elbow bumps, masked pandemic hugs, coffee, tea, cake, poems, songs, ideas, queries and advice, laughter and sober consideration – at a beach, beside a lough, in the woods and overlooking our garden.

My new pen may arrive as early as tomorrow..In the meantime, I sit at my trusty old ‘steam powered’ laptop. I tap, tap, tap, stop, revise, delete, tap, tap, tap, read. check for verb agreement, spell check, go drink tea, have a sandwich, and come back to it again after an hour.

There is plenty of space for meraki , to leave pieces of myself and my love over the next few months. The garden is beckoning. There are still home improvement projects that should keep me out of trouble over the winter. Some of my students are requesting that I resume the Zoom creative writing this autumn. I am thinking that the theme for this autumn will be “Write from the Heart.” Which is also very meraki!

In a time where the outer world can feel pretty bleak, creative expression – no matter what your medium – done with love offers a shaft of light in the darkness. Art done with love, in love, elevates the creator as much as those who receive that creation as a gift freely given.

Which is a lofty idea that brings me back to writing practice, the craft, oiling those creaking gears of creativity when my new pen arrives soon and the ink can freely flow again.

PS. I also played a LOT of scrabble with my friend Pen who was staying with us. To her

for all the great words!

Featured image Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Cuilcagh Lakelands Global Geopark Poetry Map Update

Did I mention that we have had a name change for our Geopark? What was formerly known as Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has rebranded as Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. The Cavan Geopark Ambassadors and some of the Fermanagh Heritage Champions were in on the rebranding consultation process and we all were more than satisfied with the final decision. It more completely embraces a truly crossborder identity, marrying the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border along with the many lakes and other waterways that meander back and forth across the international boundary. The mountains and drumlins and the waters winding through and around them are the characteristics that define this Geopark region. While Marble Arch Caves is responsible for there being a Geopark in this region in the first place it limited the identity and confused visitors who did not quite grasp that there are over fifty other sites they can visit in Fermanagh and Cavan as well, each packed with geoheritage significance.

The past couple of weeks have been immersed in other people’s words. There has been the anguished process of drawing up the long shortlist from the nearly fifty poems submitted for our digital Geopark Poetry Map. May were outstanding, some awesome in their execution. But all the poems submitted had a bedrock of genuine love for this region and its geological heritage. Many said they had really enjoyed the challenge of creating a geoheritage themed poem; it was a welcome activity that broke up the routine of Lockdown. When travel restrictions were lifted it spurred on the stream of submissions. Yet, this is an interesting statistic. In 2020, the visitor tickers around the Geopark clocked up nearly half a million visitors; that was the most ever recorded. Clearly, people were returning again and again to this awe-inspiring and uplifting landscape. We needed nature more than ever before, even as nature in the form of a virus was changing our lives utterly. All the submissions had great heart. Which is why the selection process has been so anguishing.

As of yesterday, all the commissioned poets have delivered their poems on various sites. Each is in a very different style, but all have addressed various aspects of the landscape in their geological and mystic wonder. There is an Irish/English poem from Séamus Mac Annaidh on Cuilcagh. Belcoo born poet Maria McManus offers a stunning view from the depths of Marble Arch Caves. Dara McAnulty takes us up to the raptor heights of Big Dog Mountain. Noel Monaghan travels the finger like tributaries of Loughs Oughter and Erne. Anthony J Quinn’s visit to Devenish Island is an exploration of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise.

The next stage will take these offerings towards their eventual digital home. Watch this space for news of its launch.

I am working on a poem for submission elsewhere so there is only the briefests of haiku from the archive fthis week. But they all celebrate aspects of Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark and geoheritage. And I decided to share some of my Geopark inspired haiku from ginkgo we have taken at various sites in years past.

Shakehole, Claddagh Glen
Fossils under your feet
Because August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption and there was a Mass celebrated at the local holy well. No four-footeds in attendance though

The world is, as the Aussies say, doing it tough, this week. Read a poem, hug a tree, pat a mossy rock or a pet. Watch birds in flight. Listen to their calls. Be well and stay safe.

The Weekly Poem – Moving

It has been a week of shifts and movement. A friend announces the birth of her first grandchild along with the arrival of a litter of kittens. Prayers go up and come back answered. A quiet space is carved in a weekend of torrential rain where the introverts cozy up with their individual activities – crochet, writing, reading, puzzle solving – comforted by knowing their pack is quietly present in our shared cave.

Rest up, folks! It’s a bumpy month out there in the world. The news is not terribly cheerful on the climate front. A lot is happening out in the world. My personal strategy is to occupy a still space. Harvest. Make. Preserve. Pray. Breathe.

Also, clean and organise our cozy cave as I squirrel away and prepare for winter. But before I launch myself onto a cleaning jag preparatory to repainting my living room and kitchen space, here is the weekly poem.

Moving

Tongues of fire licking forest floor clean
Flood water lapping spills over sandbags
Earth surface sinking, cracking, fissuring
The wind has turn its back on itself, us

Somewhere someone is dying, as we will
too, the silky caul of birth slips its veil
off the perfect newborn,  fearless, serene
As the Buddha passing through the sabre-toothed
Jaws of the gaping Lion’s Gate					
					Present
imperfect also has perfect logic
that is its magic
			Dance with angels on
That pinhead, our needle sharp future

For now, kittens’ downy pelts snuggle up
To suckle in a huddle, mother prone
Feeding their soft perfection as paws knead
Her loosened belly in a closet where
No fires burn or floods rage
				Ill winds still
The earth is her firm and steady heartbeat

Everything moves with its own logic
That is the magic in the present
We brood love and faith and hope with our young.
Empires are lost
			Lullabies are sung on

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

Featured image is Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Weekly Poem – Lúnasa Harvest

If you were paying attention then you may have noticed that I missed posting a new poem last Tuesday. What with the blistering heat finally abating there was enough energy to actually do some garden harvesting and outdoor work without melting. Lúnasa is the Celtic festival that begins on 31st July. We have had a bank holiday weekend just as we do at Samhain. Lúnasa is the Irish name for the month of August. What with one thing and another my week looked a bit like this…

Garden harvest of peas, broad beans, courgette and lettuce with one of the Lúnasa or Lammas loaves I baked this weekend

I recited some Lúnasa poems on my friend John Wilmott’s Nature Folklore Sunday Sessions this past Sunday. You can find him every Sunday on YouTube or Facebook Live. You can ferret through the archive by connecting on his Facebook Page Carrowcrorry Cottage and Labyrinth Gardens. If you peruse his channel you will learn a great deal about the Irish folklore surrounding Bilberry Sunday and Lúnasa and Crom Cruich.

I cannot do the live with him next Sunday so I made a wee video of one of the poems I am posting for you today. He will be looking at the old god Crom Cruich or Crom Dubh next Sunday. This god of the underworld was much celebrated in this region where I live, Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark. (YES! Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has a new name to more accurately reflect it’s crossborder identity!) The Blacklion-Belcoo region about eight miles from where I live was a great centre for worship of Crom Cruich. The text for one of the poems is below. A video reading this poem and another is uploaded on YouTube. I recorded it in my garden this past Sunday.

Bilberry Sunday

Hurry to cut the hay! Foot the turf!
The blazing sun plays beat the clock
waltz time to tractor engine tune.

The Council officials scythe the long grass
around graves in the old cemetery
dressing them up to be blessed once again.

Sunday is meant to be for rest.
In this most strenuous season
long days of sweat bear first harvest.

Even so, we take the time to climb up
holy heights or circle the holy well
repeating ancient patterns, saying prayers.

Bilberry’s tight fruit, slightly sour,
are offered up on walks taken
in high summer’s brief leisure hours.

Bog myrtle too sprouts from peat rich high ground,
exposed to sun and scorched dry by recent heat, 
splintering like bog oak exhumed, risen.

up from damp ancient underworld,
Auld Crom Cruich’s proper domain,
along with Belcoo’s freezing spring.

The pilgrims visit, praying the pattern,
An elegy, requiem for dying
Summer and all being gathered.

But just now we are too busy.
We must save the seed and preserve
fruits of harvest we don’t consume.

We are too busy to mourn what’s cut down.
It’s enough to know the year is waning.
That seed saved is hope of new beginnings.



Since I missed last week, I will add a wee haiku as a bonus.

Lazy orbiting
Thistle's downy seed head drifts
Summer's surrender
Thistle down